What is a Phase I Clinical Trial?

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Nearly all cancer drugs in use today were developed through clinical trials. But before they are approved for use, they must go through multiple phases designed to test the drug’s safety and efficacy. These phases include preclinical, phase I, II, and III. In phase I clinical trials, investigators evaluate how often and how much of the drug should be given. These early trials are often small, enrolling between 15 and 100 patients, but are an essential step in the development of more effective cancer treatments. “People who enroll in phase I trials are helping us discover new treatment options for …

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As Pediatric Cancer Survivors, Mother and Daughter Share Unique Bond

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  Jessica Tierney never thought she’d experience a harder moment than learning she had cancer at age 15 – until her 7-year-old daughter, Emma, was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) last October. Emma is undergoing treatment at Boston Children’s Hospital and Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic, just as Jessica did in 1991. “Emma already knew I had once been really sick, so I told her, ‘Look at me. I was treated a long time ago, and the medicine is even better now,” Jessica Tierney recalls of hearing her daughter’s diagnosis. Jessica is a survivor of acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, …

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Webchat: The Latest in Breast Cancer Treatment and Research

With new approaches to therapy and increased understanding of the biology of cancer, breast cancer treatment has made significant progress in recent years. “I am personally very excited about what’s to come for breast cancer treatment,” says Eric Winer, MD, director of the Breast Oncology Program in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. “I think we will have drugs available in the clinic in the next several years that may have a dramatic impact on outcomes for women with breast cancer.” Winer discussed the latest in breast cancer treatment and research during a live video webchat …

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What is a Meningioma?

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A meningioma is a type of tumor that develops from the meninges, the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Most meningiomas (90 percent) are categorized as benign tumors, with the remaining 10 percent being atypical or malignant. In many cases, benign meningiomas grow slowly. This means that depending upon where it is located, a meningioma may reach a relatively large size before it causes symptoms. Meningiomas account for about 27 percent of primary brain tumors, making them the most common tumor of that type. With May marking Brain Tumor Awareness Month, we’re looking at some common questions about …

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ASCO Recommends Tamoxifen for up to 10 Years

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Women with hormone receptor-positive (HR+) breast cancer should be given the option to have adjuvant hormonal therapy for as long as 10 years, according to new guidelines issued today by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). The updated guidelines reflect results from several large studies that showed women who took tamoxifen for 10 years had a lower risk of recurrence and a “survival advantage,” compared to women who took the drug for only five years. In a press release issued by ASCO, Harold J. Burstein, MD, PhD, a breast oncologist with the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers …

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Helping Patients with a Few Good Laughs

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As patients come through for their MRIs and CT scans, MJ Murphy, RN, BS, has roughly 15 minutes to sit and talk, discuss treatment, and hear updates on friends and family. It’s not much time, but Murphy always tries to coax a smile. “I love referring to the friends and family in the waiting room as the patient’s ‘fan club,” Murphy says. “It’s a small thing, but it makes them laugh.” Murphy, who is a nurse in Dana-Farber’s Department of Imaging, knows the importance humor during a time of high stress and anxiety. In 2004, she was diagnosed with melanoma. …

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At Dana-Farber, Every Beam Tells a Story of Growth — and Survival

When Dana-Farber Cancer Institute was founded as the Children’s Cancer Research Foundation in 1947, childhood cancer was almost universally fatal. In the years since, as Dana-Farber’s researchers and clinicians have helped dramatically raise survival rates for many pediatric and adult cancers, its campus in Boston’s Longwood Medical Area has grown as well. Patients are the motivation for each new building that rises at Dana-Farber, and in the case of two recent structures, are even immortalized within – thanks to special bonds formed during their construction. After years of working first in a tiny basement laboratory and then in an apartment …

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Cancer Between the Lines

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Young adults often have their sights set on the future, anticipating college, working at their dream job, or traveling. One place they don’t plan to be is in an infusion chair undergoing cancer treatment. Cancer disrupts everyone, but especially adults age 18-34 who are growing into adulthood and starting careers and families. The Young Adult Program at Dana-Farber works to help combat these unique challenges by providing emotional support from professionals, and by creating a special community. This resource also helps patients interact with their peers for support. One challenge young adults face is communicating what they are going through …

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Eight Healthy Recipes for Your Summer Cookout

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With Memorial Day approaching, we’re all looking forward to getting outside with family and friends to enjoy barbecues. Although hamburgers, hot dogs, and potato salad are staples at these affairs, it’s important to keep an eye on the things you’re eating and make healthy choices when possible. In general, try to stick to lean meats like poultry or fish, or substitute meat with colorful vegetables. For flavoring, use acid-based marinades like lemon or vinaigrettes instead of thick, sugary sauces. There are many recipes out there that offer nutrient-dense versions of our favorite summer foods. Dana-Farber nutritionist Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, has …

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Creative Coping Through Photographs

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By Kat Caverly In the book “Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient” Norman Cousins explains that creativity is an effective therapy. I devoured this book during one of my three-hour chemotherapy infusions of Taxol. I was filled with such hope. I knew then I would be fine. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. As my mind struggled on what to do with this cancer diagnosis, I instinctively reached for my camera. But instead of looking through the lens at a subject or scenery, I turned it on myself. In addition to keeping a daily written …

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